Will Oregon go to pot?

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

Political coincidences are uncommon. Political accidents are even more exceptional. The seemingly piecemeal progression toward the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and other states has been well-planned and orchestrated, and could not be described as either an accident or a coincidence. It has also, unfortunately, lead to unintended consequences for residents of the states who have opted to be first in line to be a testing ground for these new policies.

The efforts to legalize marijuana in Oregon have generally corresponded with the timeline for doing the same in Colorado. For the most part, the same organizations have implemented similar methodology to successfully advance legalization of pot in both states, as well as Washington.

In Colorado, the use of medical marijuana was made legal in 2000, medical marijuana dispensaries were established in 2009 and the recreational use of marijuana was legalized, by initiative petition, in 2012.

Oregon has been led down a similar pathway. Most recently, through initiative petition, our state legalized the adult use of recreational marijuana last November.

When Colorado first considered legalization, proponents of recreational marijuana made several claims to bolster their case. They said, among other things, that traffic fatalities would be reduced because users would switch from alcohol to marijuana, and that the drug does not impair driving to the same degree. It was also stated that the implementation of tight regulations would prevent an increase in use, and especially among the youth.

However, a recent report by the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area proves many of the claims made by legalization proponents to be absolutely false. It provides a much clearer look at the ways in which marijuana-related activities are adversely affecting the people of Colorado. The report could also easily be a harbinger of Oregon’s future under current marijuana laws.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths doubled in Colorado, from 47 to 94 per year, between 2009 and 2014.

Colorado’s marijuana-related Emergency Room calls have increased since 2009 by more than 10,000 per year. Emergency room visits have more than doubled, from about 8,000 to more than 18,000. Moreover, the State’s marijuana-related hospitalizations have nearly tripled since 2009.

The annual cost of that increase in hospitalizations, from about 4,400 to nearly 11,500 per year, certainly must exceed $50 million.

Many promoters of the marijuana culture promise significant new state and local revenue from taxes levied as a result of legalization. Marijuana related tax revenue in Colorado have been disappointing. “Marijuana taxes” have raised only about seven tenths of one percent (.007) of state revenue.

Self-reported use of marijuana among Colorado children between 12 and 17 years of age is now more than 50 percent higher than the national average. Marijuana-related school expulsions have increased more than 50 percent since 2009. Last year, more than 5,000 Colorado K-12 students were expelled for the use or distribution of marijuana.

The report also describes a burgeoning interstate and international market for Colorado-grown pot. As previously stated, growing, possessing, packaging, distributing or selling marijuana is a felony under current federal law.

All of these negative outcomes reported in Colorado have occurred in a state where three-fourths of local jurisdictions have enacted outright bans on marijuana. The report states the sale of marijuana for recreational use, and marijuana medical dispensaries, are banned by law or ordinance in 228 of 371 Colorado jurisdictions. The remaining 93 jurisdictions allow either medical marijuana dispensaries, the recreational sale of marijuana, or both.

The current leaders of our federal government have chosen to turn a blind eye towards the enforcement of most federal laws relating to marijuana. The President and his Department of Justice (DOJ) have declined to prosecute when the illegal activities occur within the boundaries of a state where marijuana is legal under state law. The policy of non-enforcement creates confusion and uncertainty with regards to how state and federal laws intersect and operate.

However, DOJ has promised to strictly enforce the laws regarding distribution or sales of marijuana to minors, and regarding the interstate transportation or sale of the drug. Under federal law, providing marijuana to a minor is a felony, regardless of whether the minor possesses a medical marijuana card. Transporting marijuana across a state line, for any purpose, is also a federal felony.

There are other contradictions between federal and state marijuana laws that remain unresolved.

Marijuana is still considered a Class I illegal substance under federal law. So is the writing of a prescription for marijuana use, for any purpose. Nevertheless, Oregon physicians have written authorizations for more than 70,000 medical marijuana cards.

Records show that nearly four out of every five medical marijuana cards are issued for the relief of unspecified chronic pain. The records further show that about 23 Oregon physicians are responsible for issuing approximately 70 percent of all medical marijuana cards.

It is our understanding the average cost for a brief medical exam to recommend medical marijuana runs between $300 and $350. Using those figures, a few Oregon physicians would have earned as much as $21 million authorizing medical marijuana cards. Our state laws actually encourage profiteering by physicians who are willing to ignore federal law.

Federal laws also prohibits banking transactions related to marijuana trade. The federal ban results in unregulated and untraceable cash drug deals. Further, it is unclear how a state or local jurisdiction could effectively collect taxes levied on the marijuana trade without running afoul of the federal ban on marijuana related transactions by federally chartered banks.

An abundance of marijuana can be grown by a medical marijuana card holder, or by a third party authorized to grow for the card holder. Under current Oregon law, a third party may not make a profit through growing and distributing medical marijuana to card holders. Further, the medical marijuana cannot be sold or distributed to anyone other than the holder of a medical marijuana card.

This mandated non-profit industry still somehow managed to fund the services of around 23 high-priced lobbyists to advocate for marijuana sales during the recently concluded 2015 Oregon Legislative Assembly.

Current state records are woefully incomplete regarding just how much pot is being legally grown in Oregon as medical marijuana. Notwithstanding the deficient and inadequate records, we do know that all of the medical marijuana card holders in Oregon could not use all of the medical pot that we do know is being legally grown in the state. They could not possibly use 20 percent of the legal pot, even if they remained stoned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Further, we are unable to document the destruction of any of the remaining 80 percent that we know is being grown. What is happening to that 80 percent? We know it is being grown, but it is not and cannot be used legally.

The better questions are how much medical marijuana is actually being grown in Oregon and what is being done with it.

It should be no surprise that the quality of “Oregon Bud” is widely known. Like Colorado pot, it is already in great demand across the nation and beyond.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed firsthand the unintended consequences of this piecemeal approach to the legalization of marijuana. Our state has been at the forefront of the issue instead of letting other states lead the way. Rather than learning from their mistakes, we are serving as a test laboratory for different policies and regulations surrounding this new enterprise.

The terms “accident” and “coincidence” cannot be properly used to describe a set of circumstances that was so deliberately orchestrated. Prior to the passage of ballot Measure 91 in the November 2014 general election, voters were presented with a variety of marijuana-related measures during multiple elections. Each successive ballot measure was aimed at slowly wearing down resistance and building support for outright legalization.

Proponents of marijuana legalization have succeeded in Oregon, Colorado and Washington. A number of other states appear to be on the pathway to voting on similar measures within the next few years.

Perhaps their voters will be wise enough to learn from the mistakes made by Oregon, Colorado and Washington and change course while they still can.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Marijuana | 27 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • stonepony

    I sure hope so…this pope guy is giving me quite a headache…and I need some smooth action from the old bong to ease on outta here….

    • .

      Oregon has gone to pot ever since Bill Bradbury tainted on site.
      So whap in urine ass beastly so malevolent about, thou high jacked-hole in the dyke. Exponiate fleas!

      • .

        “Urine, ass, beastly” You have some serious issues my brother from an ugly man.

  • Being Present

    You cite statistic about traffic accidents and hospital visits in Colorado, try comparing apples to apples – how do these compare to Drunk driving and alcohol hospital visits.

    • Dave Lister

      Not to mention that most of the people in pot related accidents were probably also drinking. More reefer madness baloney.

      • Shows bearing more knows

        Might Dave be beckoning the pot smack? Pleas refine further.

  • Jack Lord God

    I can just sense that this is going to be one of those topics where “apples to oranges” is going to be whipped out of the liberal holster incessantly. I really wish we could go back to the days of “straw man” being the phrase du jour.

    • thevillageidiot

      Yea think? just like all the other comparisons out of context. White on black murders and crime, racially biased school detentions and suspension etc.. The state must take control to fix things.

    • Duncan20903

      Q) Tell me Mr. Prohibitionist, how many prohibitionists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

      A) None. Aren’t the liboralz always yipping and yapping about saving the environment, now they want us to burn more energy with lightbulbs? Isn’t that just like a liboral?

      • besommer

        Only due to government interference preventing “at will” outdoor cultivation. Also, as long as there is an artificial scarcity due to prohibition, there is a greater risk of theft. When it is less risky, as well as easier, for individuals to grow their own rather than steal it, more stringent security measures will no longer be needed.

        Otherwise, aren’t we minimizing the energy issue via LED vs. LCD lighting?

  • thevillageidiot

    I just love statistics. and Mark Twain said there are lies, damn lies and statistics. all the stats from Colorado are suspect. in all cases of the increase “marijuana related” did the medical test include marijuana before? “Self-reported use of marijuana among Colorado children between 12 and 17
    years of age is now more than 50 percent higher than the national
    average.” There is less of a chance they will be arrested than before? did the statistic really change or did the students feel safer now to admitting use?
    as for your statistics for Oregon 23 physicians issue 70% of cards and “Our state laws actually encourage profiteering by physicians who are willing to ignore federal law.” there should be more profiteering. (free market commerce) the profiteering is only because it is the result of sanctioning by the gov. your idea if a free market seems to be business under tight government control. This always leads to mercantilism which apparently you promote.
    “Federal laws also prohibits banking transactions related to marijuana trade.” opens up new opportunities for private banking out side the control of the SEC and FED. If you are not honest not only will you lose business but you will lose your business. I voted against the legalization simply I do not believe in more government control of our personnel lives. Your concerns are crocodile tears.

  • Myke

    Federal and State conflict of interest? Change the federal laws! States are supposed to be the testing grounds for the country. It’s federal bureaucratic tyranny that’s made pot/hemp illegal in the first place. Now, let me be clear, I’m not into the idea of government regulating my recreation, whether it be pot or booze, but defining pot as a class 1 drug, and the subsequent unjust Prohibition, just doesn’t work. How about reporting how much the states are NOT spending on the pointless enforcement and incarceration as part of the cost comparison? And, yes, the Oregon law IS over generous in the amount that can be produced. But creating black market incentives only aids those who are willing to break the law, federal, in the first place.

  • Duncan20903

    The worst unintended consequence of regulated re-legalization in the 4 States and 1 Federal District which have done so is the constant whining, wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the loser prohibitionists. I think if we just let the babies cry themselves to sleep that the situation will resolve itself.

    That doesn’t mean that we can’t correct them when they’re wrong. For example, on 9/9/2015 Westword.com reports that in an interview the Governor of Colorado says that the implementation of regulated re-legalization is actually working very well. As always we find that the truth just isn’t a welcome visitor in the homes of prohibitionists. E.g. The Rocky Mountain HIDTA cherry pickers.

    Hysterical rhetoric built on a platform of irrational fear just isn’t a sound basis for the formation of public policy.

    • Duncan20903

      (Q) You initially opposed Amendment 64, and right after its passage warned that it wasn’t time to break out the Cheetos and Goldfish. Is it time now?

      [Governor John] Hickenlooper: I think a lot of us looked at it back then as a very steep hill to climb to create a regulatory framework that would simultaneously protect kids, make sure driving while impaired didn’t increase, maintain our level of public safety, and also eventually exterminate the black market. All worthy goals — but trying to create a regulatory system when you’re in conflict with federal laws isn’t easy. It’s no fun. Banking, for example. We’re unable to find any avenue into banking. No checks, safety deposits, charge cards anythingthat makes it easier to regulate an industry. An all-cash industry is an invitation to corruption.

      (Q) What advice do you give those politicians? And how has it changed since Amendment 64 was approved?

      I first tell them to wait, we don’t understand the unintended
      consequences…. If I’d had a magic wand the day after, I probably would have reversed the vote. Now I look at how far we’ve come, and I think there’s a real possibility that we’ll have a system that works…if you eliminate the black market, make it harder for kids to get marijuana. Wecan put more money into education for kids.

      “The sky isn’t falling. People thought it was the end of civilization as they know it. It wasn’t: The sky is mostly still up there with the stars and the clouds.

      (Q) What’s the one thing people outside Colorado should know about recreational marijuana here?

      Hickenlooper: Most people who were not smoking marijuana before it was legalized still don’t.

      (Q) What’s the one thing people inside Colorado should know?

      Hickenlooper: Most people who were not smoking marijuana before it was legalized still don’t.

  • DavidAppell

    To write about the problems of marijuana and completely ignore the far greater problems of alcohol is to be willfully blind.

    • Nuts T’em

      Two piles of quip cannot role meandering from out from under dour Appell trees. Hello, their droppings are out to doom US into a new world fertilized by excremental feces not worth a Dem scat outside any botox drug sore attending an Orwellian anal pharmacy .

      • Ugotissues!

        Into pig play? Every one of your posts contains the words “feces, scat and nuts”

        • Whoa 2 your smellie

          Wail ho are you to be tarry bean making sum hullabaloo over nutt’n, ewe apparent frilly goat fluff?

          • .

            oh snap! I forgot your ” ANAL pharmacy ” what ever the devil that means comment! It’s awfully dark in that closet, go ahead and step out into the light. You seem very preoccupied with Mr Bean, take a chance and give him a call. I’m sure you two will hit it off.

          • W2ys

            Terry Bean has been a $ustaining guest aboard BO’s Air Force One. Terry Bean courts with Dems like flies to warm scat, e.g., see pic (courtesy of OC) of Bean arm’n with dotty-x gov Babs Roberts and Rep WUzy Bonamici. To wit [sic] enough to gag a maggot.
            And no, I don’t play the 4-20 game either.

          • .

            Just surrender now before you start looking stupider than you already do.

          • W2ys

            Gook whose talkin’! Take your act to the Bong Show and be celebrated with a host of vegetate matters upper foremost.

  • besommer

    “Marijuana-related traffic deaths doubled in Colorado, from 47 to 94 per year, between 2009 and 2014.”

    How often are Prohibitionists going to misrepresent this statistic? The presence of inactive metabolites does not equal impairment. Until we have statistics regarding actual impairment of individuals by marijuana — and marijuana alone, not along with alcohol and/or other licit or illicit drugs — responsible for traffic-related deaths, we’ll never have an accurate “read” on this issue.

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